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A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19


This directory has been designed to help you keep track of new changes being introduced to the benefits system as a result of the coronavirus.

We hope that this summary of the latest updates provides a useful source of reference. For further guidance relating to COVID-19, visit this page.

 

Accessible information

If you have accessibility needs or care for someone who has, you can get support with claiming benefits and pensions.

There are adjustments that can be made to help anyone experiencing difficulty using the phone, reading letters or going online to name just a few examples. Please see this guidance for further information.


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Assessments

Face-to-face assessments are now taking place alongside existing paper-based assessments, and telephone assessments will continue where suitable. For the latest updates, you can visit the Gov.uk website

To ensure that assessment centres are meeting COVID-19 safety measures, on 29 March 2021, new detailed guidance was published for claimants and assessment providers. 


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Attendance Allowance

You may be able to apply for Attendance Allowance if you’re eligible for the benefit. For information about the rates and criteria to apply, see our Attendance Allowance page. Once you have applied, the Department of Work and Pensions should get in touch with you directly to advise on how to proceed with having an assessment safely, if necessary, during this period.

If your circumstances have changed (for example your condition has deteriorated and you believe you're entitled to a higher amount), you can also request a review by phone or by post. See this Attendance Allowance Gov.uk page for contact details.

We generally recommend that you take further advice before requesting a review as it can result in the level of your award remaining the same, increasing or in some cases it could be reduced. Contact your local advice agency to discuss your situation. You can also contact our Carers UK Helpline if you have any specific queries by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please let us know where you're based in the UK so that we can tailor our guidance for you.

Check the end date of your award by looking at your award letter. The DWP may have written to you to extend the end date by six months. If you have not received notice of an extension and the award end date is approaching, telephone the DWP to ask whether it has been extended. If not, you will need to make a further application.


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Benefits review?

With the impact of the pandemic, it's possible that your household income might have decreased or changed, and now may be a good time to have a benefits check. For example, you may have become entitled to financial assistance through welfare benefits.

You could contact our Helpline to request a review at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or perhaps try out the online benefits calculator provided by the financial assistance charity, Turn2Us: carersuk.org/help-and-advice/financial-support/help-with-benefits/turn2us-benefits-calculator or entitledto.


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Carer's Allowance

Some of the rules for Carer's Allowance were eased temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Note that you can only claim the Carer's Allowance benefit if someone you’re looking after is already receiving a qualifying disability benefit. Find out more on our main page.

Unpaid carers who are receiving Carer's Allowance in Wales will receive a £500 payment: https://www.carersuk.org/wales/news-campaigns/news/carers-wales-statement-500-payment-to-carers

COVID-19 related changes (that were in place until the end of August 2021)

The rules were temporarily changed in March 2020 so that carers who needed to self-isolate (because of COVID-19) and have a break from caring could continue to claim Carer's Allowance.

The government confirmed that providing ‘emotional support’ remotely online or by phone would also count towards the 35 hours needed to claim the benefit.

These measures ended on 31 August 2021.

In Scotland
In addition to Carer's Allowance, if you live in Scotland and receive Carer's Allowance on particular dates (11 April and 10 October 2022), you will be entitled to an additional payment called the 'Carer’s Allowance Supplement’. You can read more about this here


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Child Benefit

On 31 May 2021, new rules were introduced to allow Child Benefit to continue in payment after a young person leaves education early because of exam cancellations due to coronavirus.


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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme/ Job Support Scheme

When did the Coronavirus Job Retention/Furlough Scheme end?

The scheme ended on the 30 September 2021.

The government introduced a temporary scheme, referred to as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to support UK employers whose operations have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. You can read more about this here

A similar scheme was also set up to support those who are self-employed. This was known as the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Extra financial support 

The tax charities Tax Help for Older People and TaxAid are now offering targeted support for those affected by the impact of Covid-19. Their helpline is 0345 120 3779 and is open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety. As part of this duty they will need to follow the government guidance on working safely during coronavirus, which is gives information specific to different sectors. 

The government website links you to Citizens Advice webpage coronavirus - if you are worried about working .There is also further information on the ACAS website here. The ACAS helpline number is 0300 123 1100.

You can also contact our Helpline if you have any specific queries by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., noting where you are based in the UK so that we can tailor our guidance for you.

Extra financial support for businesses

If your business has been affected by the coronavirus restrictions, you may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants, whether it is open or closed. See this page for more information.


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Council Tax/rate relief

Help with your Council Tax bill

If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, you could get in touch with your local authority or trust (in Northern Ireland) to see if they can allow you to defer payments or to see if they can offer any form of discount or support to help.

See our main Help with Council Tax/ rate relief page to find out about your rights and for more ideas for saving money.

Check your local authority website for details of help available in your area.

Rate relief in Northern Ireland and COVID-19

There are various rate support schemes in place to offer support in Northern Ireland. You can find more information here.


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Debt/money worries and financial support

(UK wide) If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender. If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score. See our Help with debt page for other useful sources of support.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have a support service to help those who are facing tax problems and struggling to claim the support they are entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779.  YouTube tutorials are also available to help.


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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

For details about this benefit and its rates, see our Disability Living Allowance page

You can check the end date of your award by looking at your award letter. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may have written to you to extend the end date by six months. If you have not received a letter and the award end date is approaching, telephone the DWP to ask whether the award has been extended. If not, you will need to make a further application.

Please note that if your circumstances have changed (for example, your child's condition has deteriorated and you believe they're entitled to a higher amount), you can still request a review by phone or by post.

We generally recommend that you take further advice before requesting a review as a review can result in the award increasing or in some cases, it may remain the same or be reduced.

In April 2021, DLA guidance was updated to include long covid syndrome stating, 'It is those children who have significant functional impairment at 12 weeks and do not seem to be recovering, who may have entitlement to DLA Child.' (page 742)

Contact your local advice agency to discuss your situation. You can also contact our Helpline if you have any specific queries by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you live in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, a new benefit is replacing DLA for children called 'Child Disability Payment'. Those who are already receiving Disability Living Allowance for children in Scotland don't need to make a new application as their award will be automatically transferred. For those who are not, the Child Disability Payment applications open across Scotland from 22 November 2021. Read more at: mygov.scot/child-disability-payment


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Employment and Support Allowance (New Style)

This is a type of benefit that you may be able to apply for if you are ill or have a disability that affects your ability to work. To find out if you are eligible, visit this Gov.uk page. More detailed guidance including where you have been affected by coronavirus can be found here.

New style Employment and Support Allowance is a fortnightly payment and for eligible claimants who are directly affected by COVID-19, it is payable from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day.

Detailed guidance on gov.uk for claimants and assessment providers has been issued to help support face-to-face assessments being carried out safely again. See also Covid Clinical Telephone Assessment guidance for work capability assessments.

If you are eligible and affected by COVID-19, you can also be paid from day one rather than day eight of sickness.

In June 2021, the DWP announced that the Claimant Commitments and Action Plans would be reintroduced for all ESA Claimants. They have said that work coaches continue to work with claimants to ensure that claimant commitments and action plans are reasonable and tailored for claimants’ circumstances, “allowing them to continue to adhere to COVID-19 public health advice, whilst also considering how they can engage with the labour market or move closer to work”.

For all new claims to New Style ESA, processed from 26 April 2021, claimants will be required to have an appointment with a work coach and agree a claimant commitment before they can receive New Style ESA.

For New Style ESA claims processed prior to 26 April 2021, the requirement for an agreed claimant commitment and for ESA legacy claimants an action plan, has been introduced gradually from 28 June 2021. Claimants will be contacted to arrange an appointment with a work coach and agree a Claimant Commitment or Action Plan.


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End of life planning/bereavement

We have brought together some guidance to help you get through difficult times and prepare for the loss of someone close to you, especially during this very difficult period when many services are not operating as before. 

Understanding that there is much to take on board, both emotionally and on a practical level, we have tried to break down our guidance by suggesting some steps to follow. 

What is advance care planning? Read our guidance.

I need to find out more about how to deal with grief. See our guidance.

Practical matters – what needs to be done following a death? Read our guidance.

Registering the death – what happens now? Read our guidance.

What needs to be considered when arranging a funeral? See our guidance.

On the Gov.uk website, there is further information about support for the bereaved and what to do when someone dies during the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Hospitals - preparing and leaving

You may have been thrown into the role of caring for someone and feel underprepared. Or perhaps the needs of someone you have cared for over time, have suddenly changed. Uncertainty about what to do and how to cope can be a big source of anxiety.

Our planning for emergencies page offers tips on how to relieve these worries by preparing for the unexpected, such as a sudden visit to hospital. Once there, the ward staff should help patients communicate with those they are close to by phone or video, where possible. Providing permission and related information as part of a documented plan in advance may be useful. For example, you could indicate who you would like to be kept informed as key contacts.

Our guidance can also help you prepare for someone you care for coming out of hospital. Knowing what questions to ask and what to expect can help you both cope with any change of circumstances. 

If you are able to visit someone in hospital, remember that use of face coverings is mandatory. Check the hospital's website in advance to ensure that you follow their guidance and protocols. Also see the government's guidance on hospital discharge


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Housing support

You may be entitled to extra housing benefit if you are earning less because of coronavirus. Let your local council know as soon as possible or contact your local health and social care trust in Northern Ireland.

If you receive Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and are finding it difficult to pay your rent you can apply to your council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Renting

If you are a tenant, you are still liable for your rent and should pay this as usual. If you are struggling to pay this, support is available and new measures mean that any landlord must provide reasonable notice if they wish to end the tenancy. For more details see this Gov.uk page.

Also see ‘Council Tax/ Rate Relief’ in this directory.

Support for Mortgage Interest loan

If you are a homeowner in receipt of Pension Credit (or other qualifying benefits) with an outstanding mortgage or a loan taken out for repairs and home improvements, you may qualify for a repayable Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan. You should check whether this is right for you. More information is available on the Citizens Advice website here.


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Other benefits (incl. legacy benefits)

Many interviews and appointments previously carried out face to face in job centres can now be conducted over the phone. However, face-to-face assessments for Work Capability Assessments for claims for the additional health amount of Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance and for PIP resumed from May 2021 across England.

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance. See Employment and Support Allowance (new style) above for more information about the benefit.


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Overpayments

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) updated the Benefit overpayment recovery guide on 12 May 2021 following a judicial review. The guidance clarifies when and who may be eligible to request recoverable hardship payment(s) to be waived at the department’s discretion.

If you are having difficulty with the repayments and are struggling to meet essential living costs, seek further advice. The DWP say that those who are experiencing 'real financial hardship' can request deferral of repayments by contacting the Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647. Contact our Carers UK Helpine if you have concerns about overpayments: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

For details about the benefit and rates, see our Personal Independence Payment page.

Face-to-face disability assessments for Personal Independence payments resumed under careful conditions from May 2021 and these will take place alongside paper-based assessments. Telephone assessments will also continue to be carried out where suitable. For the latest updates you can visit the Gov.uk website.

The assessment centres and staff should be fully compliant with COVID-19 safety measures. More guidance for claimants can be found on the government website here. Detailed guidance for assessment providers is available here. This will be kept under review so check the current guidance.


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Self-employment

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

The scheme, which offered additional financial support to certain self-employed people, ended on 30 September 2021. 

The tax charities Tax Help for Older People and TaxAid have launched a new coronavirus support service to help if you are struggling with tax problems. Their helpline is available Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

Find out whether you are eligible for government finanical aid if your business has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Other sources of support

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to government guidance. See the 'Employment and Support Allowance' entry in this index to find out more.

You may be able to apply for the benefit, Universal Credit as a self-employed person. See the 'Universal Credit' entry further on in the A-Z.

For support and guidance on getting financial assistance or to arrange a benefits check, contact our helpline by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

You can read more about this here. See our Working and caring section for more guidance if you are balancing work with caring.


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Universal Credit

Find out more about the benefit and its rates on our Universal Credit page.

If you’re claiming this for the first time, you will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, so don’t delay making a claim. You can make a claim for an advance payment while you are waiting for your Universal Credit payment. 

The standard rates are now as follows (per month):

Single aged under 25: £257.33

Single aged 25 or over: £324.84

Couple both aged under 25: £403.93

Couple one or both aged 25 or over: £509.91

Find out more about the process of applying here. Anyone who is unable to get online, or needs additional help, can ring the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644, or the Citizens Advice Help to Claim Service on 0800 144 8 444. For more information, see this Gov.uk page.


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